Very seldom do we as consumers get a chance to see how the sausage is made when it comes to the film industry. Sure, we see photos from sets, get updates from actors, and Variety exists, but the inner workings of the corporate studio are kept well hidden. This all changed the other day, though, in one fell swoop, following Sony getting an estimated 100 terabytes of data hacked and distributed throughout the Internet, as reported by Gizmodo. The haul included salary numbers for high-ranking Sony executives, five soon-to-be released Sony films, internal company memoranda, and even personnel files detailing Social Security numbers and medical information of employees.
While networks like Buzzfeed, Kinja, Time, and others sift through the mountains of data, what we’re seeing is an unprecedented release of behind-the-scenes info that constitutes one of the biggest corporate hacks ever. So what does this mean for the average moviegoer? The answer is “a lot” if you consider the scale to which Sony was attacked. Over at Fusion, we’re provided with the tip of the iceberg in terms of what was taken:
- The names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of 3,803 Sony Pictures employees.
- A spreadsheet listing the division-by-division Sony Pictures payroll.
- A spreadsheet listing Sony Pictures employees who were fired or laid off in 2014 as part of the company’s reorganization, along with the reasons for their termination.
- Detailed performance reviews for hundreds of Sony Pictures employees.
- A spreadsheet and chart comparing Sony Pictures’ employee pay to that of its competitors.
Fusion goes on to paint a picture of sheer, unadulterated panic at Sony Pictures headquarters, citing the chaos that ensued as the studio tried to enact something that resembled damage control. According to Fusion:
[Employees were forced] to use personal e-mail accounts, work from home, and in some cases, resort to paper and pencil to do their work. Fearing a further hack of credit-card data, the shops and cafés on the studio’s lot switched to cash-only, and the Yogurtland frozen yogurt store located on the lot closed altogether. Even the corporate gym was affected, workers said, as the hack took its electronic sign-in system offline.
It remains to be seen what the fallout of the hack will entail, but so far, the initial results have not been positive for the studio. According to Fusion, the leaked salary info paints a picture of disparity, where “the upper pay echelon of Sony Pictures is 94 percent male, and 88 percent white.” Further salting the wounds, Gawker detailed a treasure trove of damning employee feedback in which people talked internally about everything from a companywide hatred of Adam Sandler to opinions about how Sony needs to “stop making the same, safe, soul-less movies and TV shows.”
In that file of employee feedback, we even get a peek at the behavior of the stars of Sony’s films. Per Gawker, “upper management allows certain talent and filmmakers to bleed us dry with their outlandish requests for private jets, wardrobe and grooming stylists.” It’s a stark contrast to the fluffier version of the filmmaking experience we get from the people in charge, and it shows that even the celebrities we admire are subject to bad behavior when given the chance.
Meanwhile, theories abound as to who’s responsible. The prevailing opinion — as insane as it sounds, this is real — is that the hack was retaliation from North Korea for Sony releasing The Interview, a comedy in which Seth Rogen and James Franco are tasked with assassinating Kim Jong Un.
Time cites the North Korean government calling the release of the film as “a blatant act of terrorism and war” (full article can be found here). The publication goes on to describe South Korea’s claims that the North’s cyber-intelligence division is the third largest of its kind in the world, directly behind the United States and Russia.
All this has culminated in an FBI investigation, as well as Sony hiring an outside organization known as FireEye to help clean up the mess, Reuters reports. Given the scale of the attack, it’s safe to say Sony Pictures will be feeling the consequences of lax cyber-security for months to come. As more information comes to light, the plot is thickening on a daily basis for a story that sounds like it was ripped right out of the pages of a spy novel.
You can bet that as media outlets continue to sift through the terabytes of data, there’ll be even more made available to the public in the coming days. What we can do as consumers remains to be seen, but what we have in the meantime is an unparalleled look behind the scenes on a whole new level.